ntThere are few positive views of life to be found in C.
K. Williams The Vigil. His poetry does not present a necessarily negative life-view, but rather sees the world as most others do. He calls out commonplace people, places, and times in the same manner that most of the rest of us do, despite how dark it may seem.Williams uses a lot of punctuation in his poetry.
His sentences, although full of commas and semicolons, flow smoothly from line to line. He uses a lot of clauses and qualifications in his writing. Each stanza remains fresh, never becoming mundane or repetitive. He chooses words carefully, painting pictures with broad, smooth strokes rather than wispy phrases that are hard to follow.In his poem entitled Grief, Williams accurately describes his grief at the loss of a loved one. In Part One, the feeling is heavy and overwhelming.
The speaker, (most likely Williams), recalls days of sitting bedside with a slow-dying love. Some writers waste time in getting to the heart of the poem, but Williams wastes none. In the first line, he leaves his readers with no question as to what is going on in the poem. He writes, Gone now, after the days of desperate, unconscious gasping, the reflexive / staying alive, (29). All readers are instantaneously reminded of an experience with watching a loved one pass slowly, perhaps painfully.
In Part Two of the poem, Williams questions grief as an emotion. He tries to indicate what exactly the emotion of grief entails, and maybe even what it should be. He comes to the conclusion that grief is not clear-cut, but rather like a roller coaster ride, up and down, coming and going in unexpected waves. Readers can identify with this, as we all know that grief is not an apparent emotion such as joy or pain. But rather, grief can sweep over us unexpectedly at times and in places when we least expect it. Williams writes, Is this grief? Tears took me, then ceased; the wish to die, too, may have / fled through me, / but not more than with any moments despair, the old, surging wish to / be freed, finished. (30). He perfectly illustrates the intense, sweeping emotion that we all know as grief.
(Sidenote: Before I read this poem, I had never read anything that describes grief in such and accurate way. Breathtaking.)Part Three personifies the poem (although in the subtitle we learn that it is about his mother). His mother, although dying, is concerned about her makeup. He tells of her putting on her makeup, and calls it out as her moment to intensely focus on her own face.
Williams writes, my mother puts on her morn- / ing makeup; / the broad, deft strokes of foundation, the blended-in rouge, powder, eye / shadow, lipstick; / that concentration with which you must gaze at yourself, that ravenous, unfaltering focus. He feels grief for his mother before she has even died, for whatever she thought her face had to be (31).In the final stanza, Williams style almost becomes like a prayer. He focuses on all the things in his life that have brought him to grief in the past: the flesh, the mind, and the moment, its partial beauties (32). Although this poem is dark and reminds us of our own loss and grief, it remains one of the most beautiful in The Vigil.
This brings up the question: How can something so painful be so beautiful? Any true work of art, however tormenting, stays beautiful simply because it is pure. And that is what makes Grief just that a beautiful, accurate poem that helps all of its readers to relate and understand an emotion unlike any other.In his poem Fire, Williams focuses more on the literal aspects of fire and its ability to consume.
He writes of a house consumed by fire: The plaster had been burnt from the studsceilings smoke-blackened, soaked rags of old / rug underfoot (39).By giving vivid descriptions of the charred house, Williams sets up his reader for the most powerful stanza of the poem the last one. He transfers the readers minds from the literal sense of the burnt house, to the metaphorical idea of unrequited lost love. And although the shift is somewhat abrupt in idea from the 2nd to 3rd stanzas, it is still a smooth transition. He ties in the burnt, charred house with the empty feeling that remains after a relationship has gone awry. He says, in the last stanza, Like love it wasmis- / used and consumed (39). But after the fire has gone out, the hulk still remains. Williams is saying that after a failed relationship, the person left behind feels as empty and hollowed out as a house that has been burnt.
The house has not been burnt to the ground, but rather left standing empty, just as the person in the last stanza is left standing with a vacant feeling of misery and shame (39).In The Heart, another poem dealing with a dying loved one, Williams tells of his 8-year-old sons illness. Sick with a heart condition, Williams personifies his sons heart, calling it the tiniest part of that essence Id always allowed to believe could / stand for the soul (60). He now sees the heart as some lost lunar creature biting too avidly (60). There is great irony in Williams words and feelings.
If the heart is diseased, the soul must be diseased as well.All of Williams poems in The Vigil are dark. However, they all share a common thread in that they accurately interpret common situations and emotions in a way that all readers can not only understand, but also feel.Without Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes Birthday Letters would have never been written. Had her father, among other things not haunted her, Hughes would have had no material for this book. The reader can clearly see that Birthday Letters is Ted Hughes statement on his marriage with Plath, as well as his opinion on her and her various problems. Hughes felt like he had to leave her in the end because she was unstable, whereas Feminists and other scholars argue that he was the reason she committed suicide. In his poem The Tender Place, Hughes recalls Plaths shock-therapy sessions.
He poses the question of whether or not Plath was mad, or merely a victim of her own upbringing. The poem is not much more than an account of her sessions, but the reader can see through the concrete and find out what Hughes thought himself of this method of treatment; they can see that he was a bit fascinated by it. Hughes writes, Once to check / I dropped a file across the electrodes / Of a twelve-volt battery it exploded / Like a grenade. He calls the electrodes the thunderbolt in your skull (12).This poem focuses on the intensity of Plath, both as a woman haunted by her father, and as a profound writer.
Hughes has in some way deified her into a goddess from Hell. With all the dark images of war, death, mayhem, and Armageddon in this poem, the reader can tell that Hughes sees Plath as a victim of both the shock therapy and her father.In Childs Park, many interesting things happen. In the first stanza, the reader may interpret Plaths falling in the water as literal. But looking closer, it could be seen as figurative, where Plaths fever was so hot that she had to be cooled off. Hughes writes, Your fury / Had to be quenched.
Heavy water, / Deeper, deeper, cooling and controlling / Your plutonium secret. You breathed water (69). In this passage, Hughes refers to plutonium, one of the most deadly substances on the planet. He correlates it with Plaths secret.
Does Hughes view his wife and her demons to be so bad that they are radioactive, deadly? In the second stanza of the poem, Plath has cooled off. The verse is loaded with naturalistic imagery, with words like dragonflies, woodpecker, and garden. Hughes describes the setting on the literal, and then turns to describe the setting of Plath’ mind. He says, You were never / More than a step from Paradise. / You had instant access, your analyst told you, / To the core of your Inferno (69). Plaths Paradise and Inferno are one in the same happiness and sadness coexist. With this passage, the reader could say that Hughes viewed his wife as bipolar, where happiness and sadness come and go like the wind.
The poem flows smoothly, and in the fourth stanza in which Hughes feels compelled to come back to Plaths core problem: her father. In order to beat her obsession with her father, Plath must tackle the problem head-on and face it. Only then will she experience a re-birth of herself. The best line of the poem sits alone, between stanzas: What happens in the heart simply happens (70).
There is no logic to feeling things rather than thinking them through. Hughes is saying that despite how unfounded Plaths obsession with her father may be, it is how she feels, and she has no control over it. The fifth stanza refers to Eden radioactive (70). This is Hughess statement on his otherwise perfect existence with his wife, corrupted by the poisonous reign her fathers memory has over her. This poem says that in order for Plath to get on with her life and be happy, she must acknowledge her past and tackle it in order to deal with the present. But Plaths very nature was poisonous.
Perhaps it was impossible for her to save herself.In his poem Isis, Hughes tells of a road trip with Plath while she was pregnant. The first stanza of the poem leads the reader to believe that Plaths obsessions with her father and death were a thing of the past: And you had dealt with Death.
/ You had come to an agreement finally: / He could keep your Daddy and you could have a child (111). But just as the reader presumes that Plaths problems have left her, Hughes interjects Death, lurking, haunting from afar. Death is personified as the third person on their trip, when Hughes writes, Was Death, too, part of our luggage? Did he meet us now and again on the road, / Smiling in a caf, at a gas station? (111).
Although Plath may have thought she had beat Death, Hughes knows that hers is a battle not to be won. Towards the end of the poem, when Plath gives birth to their child, Hughes feels that she is a goddess. He finds hope in their child because it is fresh, unstained by any thoughts of death. The baby represents life.
And for the first time, Plath does not think of death. The final stanza illustrates her exuberance with her new baby. Hughes says that it was not Death that had created this new life, but Life itself. She runs to the phone to call friends and relatives about her new baby, as Hughes writes, to announce to the world / What Life had made of you (112). Hughes feels happy at this moment, but he knows that Plaths happiness is too good to be true, and that it probably wont last. We all know that it couldnt, and it didnt.
Both Williams and Hughes present life in a manner that may not be pleasant, but is nonetheless true-to-life. Although Williams life-view is a bit dark and dreary, we can all read it and relate it to some aspect of our lives. And although Hughes poetry is mostly about his life with Sylvia Plath, we can all read it and relate it to someone what we may know.
Williams refuses to find a silver lining in every cloud, and Hughes refuses to see Plath as a woman who could be helped. The reason that both of these poets are successful is that they write about life as it is, rather than what we would all like it to be.Bibliography: